(Above: Cast members of “Singin’ in the Rain” in the grand finale of the production at The Shedd)
By Randi Bjornstad
There’s undoubtedly somebody out there who doesn’t like “Singin’ in the Rain,” but most people probably can’t name one.
After all, it’s a classic in every way, from the script to the songs to the dancing to the comedy to the plot.
The show is set in the 1920s, just as the talkies are eclipsing the silent movies and the stars who did all their emoting via acting and subtitles are scrambling — in some case unsuccessfully — to make the transition.
“Singin’ in the Rain” began as an MGM musical comedy in 1952. The iconic writing team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the book, centering their story around a set of songs written in the 1920s and ’30s by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.
Who can’t hear the title “Singin’ in the Rain” and not at least hum the tune, if not belt it out? And unlike many musicals which only produce one or two memorable songs, this one is full of them — “You are My Lucky Star,” “You Stepped Out of a Dream,” “Moses Supposes,” “Make ’em Laugh,” “Good Morning” and “All I Do is Dream of You.”
The world-famous cast included Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen as silent movie stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, partners in both their professional and personal lives. Lockwood is doing fine with changing over from silent to talking movies, but Lamont has a voice like nails on a blackboard. When a young unknown actress with a great voice, Kathy Selden (played by the teenage Debbie Reynolds) is brought in to do voiceovers for Lamont, Lockwood is smitten and the plot naturally thickens.
Kelly, of course, is a major triple threat, and his fabulous tap dancing routine during a downpour on a city street is one of the most memorable movie scenes of all times. But he’s not the only dancer on the scene. “Singin’ in the Rain” lovers also cherish the memory of Donald O’Connor’s role as Lockwood’s loyal sidekick, Cosmo Brown. Many consider O’Connor as good or better a dancer than Kelly and Fred Astaire but one who didn’t make it as big because he lacked their debonair looks and savoir faire. And in truth, there are few performances as amazing as his “Make ’em Laugh” routine and his duet with Kelly in “Moses Supposes.”
The original “Singin’ in the Rain” also featured other notable dancers, including Cyd Charisse and Rita Moreno.
That’s a pretty daunting bunch of talent to match, but The Shedd Institute for the Arts brings its production to the stage with some of its veteran performers, including Trevor Eichhorn and Tom Wilson as Lockwood and Brown. Cyra Conforth and Lynnea Barry take the parts of Selden and Lamont.
The cast also includes Dylan Stasack, Ron Daum, Ward Fairbairn, Clarae Smith, Sophia James, Kenady Conforth, Abigail Howell, Caitlin Christopher, Madeleine Sisson, Adam Kelly, Sheldon Hall, Mackenzie NesSmith, Cloud Pemble and Phil Dempsey.
The show is directed by Peg Major, with Robert Ashens as music director. Christopher and Kelly choreographed, with Jamie Parker in charge of costumes. Cosmo Cole does lighting and sound, and Sean Johnson is technical director. Stage manager is Christle O’Neil, assisted by Katie Guest. Kristina Gribskov is production manager.
“Singin’ in the Rain” is the finale in The Shedd’s 2017 theatrical season, based on the 1983 stage musical adaptation.
Singin’ in the Rain
When: Evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1-2, 7-8 and 15-16; matinee performances at 3 p.m. on Dec. 3, 9 and 17
Where: Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute for the Arts, 868 High St., Eugene
Tickets: $28 to $38 (discounts available for students and groups), available at the box office, 541-434-7000 or online at theshedd.org/
Details: Meals available at The Shedd before each evening performance and after each matinee, at $21.75 for adults and $16.75 for children ages 9 years and younger, by advance reservation